• apokrisis
    4.5k
    What Smolin argues is that while some represent the laws of physics as "global", they really are not.Metaphysician Undercover

    To study a system we need to define what is contained and what is excluded from it. We treat the system as if it were isolated from the rest of the universe, and this isolation itself is a drastic approximation. We cannot remove a system from the universe, so in any experiment we can only decrease, but never eliminate, the outside influences on our system. — Smolin

    So as I have argued, the emergent law approach taken by Peirce would see contextuality as irreducible. Thus it is certainly right to point this out about any claims which might portray micro-physical laws as themselves basic rather than emergent.

    The usual view is that physics must find something definite, crisp, determinate, atomistic, once it drills down to the bedrock of existence. This is why the micro-physical laws are taken to describe something substantially real while the macro-physical laws - like the second law of thermodynamics in particular - are dismissed as merely emergent in the sense of being descriptive illusions. A way of summing over the fine detail as a convenience.

    But the view Smolin is expressing - which Peirce made much more clearly a 100 years earlier - is that even the micro-physical would be emergent. The micro-physical realm gains its atomism, its definiteness, due to the downwardly-stabilising action of a weight of global constraints. The micro-physical is pure fluctuation, pure quantum possibility, shaped up into actual substantial events that can then go on to weave a classical world unfolding in a global dimension of time.

    So yes. The way our fundamental micro-physical laws get formed just paints right over the fact that there has to be some story of development already. Smolin points that out. However that just says it is contextuality or constraints all the way down. Both the local and the global scales of the Cosmos are emergent. That is the whole point - how you can get something out of "nothing". The local and the global stand mutually or synergistically as each other's ground. Each is producing the other - the dialectical other that it itself needs to have there as the causal source of its own definite being.

    This is why Peircean metaphysics is triadic. In the beginning is just Firstness or Vagueness. Then this potential splits - the symmetry breaks - in local~global fashion. You get the two varieties of causality emerging - bottom-up construction and top-down constraint. The outcome is a hierarchical situation - a fundamental asymmetry - that then goes to equilibrium over all its spatiotemporal scales of integration.

    Check out this paper which looks at how Peirce relates to Smolin...

    SPACE, TIME AND NATURAL LAW: A PEIRCEAN LOOK AT SMOLIN’S TEMPORAL NATURALISM
    https://proyectoscio.ucv.es/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/A7-Waal.pdf

    ...there are no laws in the early universe. It is only in virtue of a high-level restriction of possibility that laws can emerge by enabling certain paths while precluding others. The laws of physics thus develop not unlike the manner in which a stream wears its own bed (CP 5.492);

    ... in both approaches, the emergence of regularity is associated with a loss of novelty, or spontaneity, in the system. To both this loss of novelty is not complete (there remains room for what Peirce called “absolute chance”),30 rather “at some stage [it] stops being sufficient to destabilize regularity” (Cortês & Smolin, 2015: 19).

    ... if there is truly nothing – meaning there are no constraints whatsoever – there is nothing to prevent anything from happening, so that eventually something will happen, which, as there are no constraints, will be a purely random event. In other words, all we are doing is to remove the restriction that came with the concept of nothing as it was conceptualized through the removal of everything, which is that it has to be purely passive –something like an inert, empty space at t0 – unable to generate anything.
    Such active, or energetic, interpretation of nothing dovetails nicely with the remarks by Peirce that drew Smolin’s attention, namely that a purely random event is not the kind of thing that needs further explanation to justify belief in its possibility, as any explanation to that effect will give us a narrative
    that de facto negates the event’s randomness. It also dovetails with the idea of Smolin and Cortês, discussed earlier, that the events CST speaks of are intrinsically endowed with energy and momentum.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    Nature is always being hi-jacked to serve the political agenda of folk.

    In the good old days, morality was based on what God told you in chiselled stone tablets or magic books. These days, people find support for the fundamental rightness of their socio-political views in what science might tell us about nature.

    The right are as bad as the left, as I say. And SX is very good at criticising the right wing agenda as it shows itself in the Darwinian justifications for capitalism and neo-liberalism, or the racism of facism. I'm just pointing out that PoMo has a long social history of batting for the other side.

    If the "laws" of nature are merely a social construction, a convenient illusion we project on to a bricolage of individuated histories, then this would give a metaphysical-strength justification for a politics of PC pluralism.

    If Nature itself is a loose and collegial network of différance - it rejects hierarchical organisation, power structures, homogeneity, causal determinism, at root - then who are we humans to think otherwise about what is right and proper when it comes to our political relations? Listen to Nature! She has already spoken.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    I can only encourage anyone who, like SLX, denounces the abuse of the terms of Law and legal usage in philosophy and science.Akanthinos

    To be fair, I don't think the use of legal terminology in philosophy or science is a priori suspect, only that, when and where it it used, it is used with caution, or at the very least close attention to the specificity of that use. In fact one of the things I liked about Cartwright's quote that I cited in the OP is that she argues that 'laws of nature' are more like 'human' laws and not less: they bear upon very specific situations, and for most action and behavior, the law(s) simply have nothing to say. That said, I share your suspicion regarding such uses in general.

    And most of Apo's gaseous output here can be dismissed as irrelevant insofar as his usual second grade comprehension ability leads him to think that a discussion of the scope of laws is a discussion about their modal status.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    In fact one of the things I liked about Cartwright's quote that I cited in the OP is that she argues that 'laws of nature' are more like 'human' laws and not less: they bear upon very specific situations, and for most action and behavior, the law simply has nothing to say.StreetlightX

    I think that's a myopic vision of laws. Law can be exactly as extensive as the Legislator wishes it to be. And by design, it is only through it's own exercise that it can limit its extent. As Aristotle said, everything is political, but as we Modern should be quick to add ; but the Law can decide that something is no longer political.

    There are laws which give context to just about every possible social interactions of subjects in a society under the Rule of Law : constitutional laws. Of course, the level of abstraction of these laws to individual situation makes it nearly impossible to recognize their influence if you are not specifically looking out for these relations. These are not explicitely rules or orders or commands, but rather acts of empowerement on a circumscribed domain of action. There are no special constitutional Laws of Nature, or perhaps, the things we call Laws of Nature can only be so by analogy to constitutional law.

    There are no Legislator to science, who can arbitrarily decide the extent of a totalitarian science and what is and isn't an object of science.
    There is no systematic valence to individual states of Nature ; as such, what scientific situation should become the object of a law, and which shouldn't?
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    If the "laws" of nature are merely a social construction, a convenient illusion we project on to a bricolage of individuated histories, then this would give a metaphysical-strength justification for a politics of PC pluralism.apokrisis

    I don't see the point. "PC pluralism" has on it's side Existentialism and, and this may be a bit chauvin, the non-negligible advantage of being the only non-douchebag game in town, so to speak.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    Law can be exactly as extensive as the Legislator wishes it to be.Akanthinos

    Can be, but usually aren't, unless you're in Stalinist Russia. It's pretty simple: do IR laws cover each and every aspect of what happens between employers and employees? No. They lay down constraints, boundaries, beyond which one cannot cross. Anything inside those boundaries are fair game. That's the import of the comparison.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    "PC pluralism" has on it's side Existentialism and, and this may be a bit chauvin, the non-negligible advantage of being the only non-douchebag game in town, so to speak.Akanthinos

    Yeah. Anyone not standing alongside you is a douchebag. Skillfully argued.

    The background to this thread was SX promising to show how the enemies of the left misuse the concepts of evolution to serve their political agendas.

    Well great. It's very true. But now he is wheeling out Cartwright to give his own politicised reading of the metaphysics. I find that amusing.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    The background to this thread was SX promising to show how the enemies of the left misuse the concepts of evolution to serve their political agendas.apokrisis

    You have, if nothing else - perhaps and especially because nothing else - a vivid imagination.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.6k
    Any organism that is able to perceive its environment in more detail can use its energy more efficiently in finding ofood — Harry Hindu


    Right - any organism. And that is a biological observation. It is not a justification of reason. Biology has nothing specific to say about that.
    Wayfarer
    What else can reason besides organisms? Computers?

    What is reasoning?
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Your argument in this thread is the kind of faulty reasoning that the OP is addressing: it is trying to arrive at an explanation of the nature of reason (as if 'reason' is something that can be explained) in terms of evolutionary biology. (But it is futile having these debates with you as you are only ever capable of looking through your spectacles, and never at them, so you will forgive me for not responding to the inevitable repetition that this response will provoke.)
  • Harry Hindu
    1.6k
    What else can perform faulty reasoning except organisms? What is faulty reasoning?

    Your excuse in not answering the questions is pathetic. That is how you always take your way out of a question you just can't answer without being contradictory. Its getting old.

    Computers are not organisms. I asked if they can reason. You are making up shit in order to avoid answering tough questions.

    I have learned to not expect any meaningful answers to tough questions from you. I ask simply to show others that you can't answer them.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    Yeah. Anyone not standing alongside you is a douchebag. Skillfully argued.apokrisis

    It's not the object of this thread to argue weither or not "PC pluralism" or "Pomo Neo-Marxist hermeneutics" are justified by SLX's attack on the concept of Laws of Nature. At least it does not seem so to me. It seems that rather that it is a criticism of the concept of Law in regards to the domain of natural philosophy or even just Nature itself, a qualification of how should be understood the extension of these Laws of Natures. If this ends up being an argument against a specific social discourse, it can only be by inference that this special discourse bases itself entirely on justifications by Laws of Nature. I will admit that I would find such an ideology repulsive almost entirely on aesthetical grounds alone, although I would not have much of an issue developping an argument to expand on this disgust.

    As such, I would say my expression, although perhaps a bit crude, does stand. Had SLX decided to provide a justification for a socio-political vision of science, I would have found the argument strange, if only because it seems rather self-defeating to justify "Pomo Neo-Marxism French Theory PC Pluralism" or whatever, on the basis of a metaphysical discourse. Its otiose. Rather, you demonstrate that every single other system stands on an uncriticised metaphysical discourse, and then show that, as I said, your game is the only left in town.

    But, seemingly, from all accounts but yours, this is not SLX's intent.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I ask simply to show others that you can't answer them.Harry Hindu

    I guess I’ll just have to live with that, Harry.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.6k
    I guess I’ll just have to live with that, Harry.Wayfarer
    That's your problem. You don't want to change or learn anything. You just want to keep beleiving what you believe.

    What is learning? What learns? What does it mean to learn something useful as opposed to something not useful? What is useful knowledge as opposed to unuseful knowledge?
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    To be honest, the impression I get from your posts, is that you have no understanding of philosophy as such. Everything you write is straight out of pop science. That’s why I don’t bother with most of your posts, a practice that I will forthwith return to.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.6k
    To be honest, the impression I get from your posts, is that you have no understanding of philosophy as such. Everything you write is straight out of pop science. That’s why I don’t bother with most of your posts, a practice that I will forthwith return to.Wayfarer
    I understand philosophy all to well (at least the kind used here on these forums by many of the posters, like yourself and SX). It is the act of being artful with words, not a logical use of words.

    But it is futile having these debates with you as you are only ever capable of looking through your spectacles, and never at themWayfarer
    You'd think that me asking what reasoning is is asking what the spectacles are. What are the spectacles, Wayfarer?
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    The philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright explains this idea best: "Covering-law theorists tend to think that nature is well-regulated; in the extreme, that there is a law to cover every case. I do not. I imagine that natural objects are much like people in societies. Their behaviour is constrained by some specific laws and by a handful of general principles, but it is not determined in detail, even statistically. What happens on most occasions is dictated by no law at all.... God may have written just a few laws and grown tired." (Cartwright, How The Laws of Physics Lie).StreetlightX

    Random ramblings :

    "Well-regulated" may, in a vacuum, refer to the extension of laws covering the specific situation, but it may also have a more mechanical usage of "efficient", "without operating deviations", so to speak.

    Both meanings are applicable to the philosophical inquiry at hand.

    As SLX correctly pointed out, only a few jurisdictions have such an extensive body of laws that one could be tempted to say the the legal system, in such a jurisdication, is totalitarian. More often, only social situations which are very common or very risky have their own legal specificities. However, it seems a priori correct to apply at least one meaning of the term "well-regulated" to both a society which does not have an totalitarian legal system, but in which the majority of social situations are resolved within acceptable parameters, and to a society which does have a totalitarian legal system but which is constantly encountering critical failures, so to speak.

    "Regulation" here becomes suspect. Where, in the totalitarian version of Laws of Nature are we presented with an account of systematic critical failures?
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    It seems that rather that it is a criticism of the concept of Law in regards to the domain of natural philosophy or even just Nature itself, a qualification of how should be understood the extension of these Laws of Natures.Akanthinos

    Thank you for reading what I've actually written, rather than childishly fantasizing about projected 'ideologies' and 'political agendas'.

    "Well-regulated" may, in a vacuum, refer to the extension of laws covering the specific situation, but it may also have a more mechanical usage of "efficient", "without operating deviations", so to speak.Akanthinos

    In this context it'd be the former sense of the phrase that's under consideration.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    In this context it'd be the former sense of the phrase that's under consideration.StreetlightX

    I agree, in the context of your OP, that is clear. :wink:

    My previous ramblings are only train-of-thoughts on what I perceive to be, perhaps, a semantic shifting ground which reinforce the impression that the application of the term is, at all, appropriate.

    And perhaps should we not simply stabilize the usage of the term to resolve the issue of your OP? If Nature is not a stress-free system, not a place of well-regulated common practices repeated over and over again, as, it seems to me, all evidence should point to, then should we not agree that neither one or the other meaning of the term applies to it? That, rather, our opinion of the universe's process stability is a function of our position within it?
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    And perhaps should we not simply stabilize the usage of the term to resolve the issue of your OP? If Nature is not a stress-free system, not a place of well-regulated common practices repeated over and over again, as, it seems to me, all evidence should point to, then should we not agree that neither one or the other meaning of the term applies to it?Akanthinos

    True, true, but it's important to be precise: if we admit both senses, to the degree that nature is not 'well-regulated' in the 2nd sense ('efficient'), it is because it is not well-regulated in the 1st sense ('extension'). There's a logical priority here which one must be careful to attend to.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    if we admit both senses, to the degree that nature is not 'well-regulated' in the 2nd sense ('efficient'), it is because it is not well-regulated in the 1st sense ('extension'). There's a logical priority here which one must be careful to attend to.StreetlightX

    Ah! Agreed, and well put.

    I'm still thinking about the negativity of what we can call natural laws. I'll get back to you on this one. I have to babysit an anxiety-ridden doberman that could well enough murder me in my sleep. :worry:
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    I'm still thinking about the negativity of what we can call natural laws.Akanthinos

    I was thinking about this too, and especially the curious idea - let me know if you agree - that even positive injunctions in the law are, in a way, simply double negatives. As in, if there's a law that says 'you must drive on the left side of the road', what's 'really' going on is an injunction to the effect of 'you must not not drive on the left side of the road'. Or in more general terms, everything that counts as 'legal' is in fact simply not-illegal. And good luck with the doberman lol.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5k
    The usual view is that physics must find something definite, crisp, determinate, atomistic, once it drills down to the bedrock of existence. This is why the micro-physical laws are taken to describe something substantially real while the macro-physical laws - like the second law of thermodynamics in particular - are dismissed as merely emergent in the sense of being descriptive illusions. A way of summing over the fine detail as a convenience.apokrisis

    The problem is that physics never does drill down to the bedrock of existence. Metaphysics and ontological speculation, propose some principles of existence, that's what does the drilling, and physics may take some of these for granted, as the "bedrock". But all the experiments by which physics purports to prove these principles as general "laws" are very restrictive and cannot support the claim to universality of the principles.

    This is why the micro-physical laws are taken to describe something substantially real while the macro-physical laws - like the second law of thermodynamics in particular - are dismissed as merely emergent in the sense of being descriptive illusions. A way of summing over the fine detail as a convenience.apokrisis

    The "micro-physical" suffers from the exact same issue as the "macro-physical", in the inverse way. The human perspective is in the midrange so any extrapolation in either direction produces an approximation. So any claim that laws applied to the micro represent what is real, is just as mistaken as any claim that laws applied to the macro represent what is real.

    The issue is not "the emergence of laws", as if "laws" are some sort of entity which come into existence, and are responsible for creating stability through placing constraints on physical reality. The issue is the limitations in the human capacity to create laws which have universal applicability.
  • SophistiCat
    649
    Reading your glosses of Cartwright's attacks on the laws of nature (as well as one of her shorter papers), I have to wonder who is she arguing with? And just what exactly is she attacking?

    To the extent that the positions that are being attacked are not vague generalities, here is what I can make out:

    1. As a preliminary observation, what is meant by "laws of nature" in this context are specific statements, rules, equations that have traditionally been so called. So Newton's Law of gravitation is one such law.

    2. And the criticism seems to come down to this: No one law of nature specifies the behavior of everything, ever, in all domains and all contexts.

    Well, duh? How is that a criticism? Yes, a scientific "law" usually describes a particular regularity in a prescribed context and against the background of a specific theoretical framework. Or even just one principal component of what may be a superposition of regularities. How is that controversial?


    Also, to better understand where Cartwright is coming from, it would help to note that she belongs to a powers/capacities/dispositions school of thought as regards causation. Things exercise their natural capacities in certain circumstances, and that is how everything happens in nature. You can see how the view of the "dappled world" comes about. While every given thing has a specific nature, a world filled with a bunch of different things with no overriding organizing principle (since all principles are local and attached to particular things), on the whole it's going to look "dappled."

    There is a wide variety of views on causation, and no one of them dominates - indeed, different views do not necessarily exclude each other. I lean more towards causal pluralism myself (which Cartwright also advocates), but the powers-capacities view is perhaps my least favorite. It has a homely, intuitive appeal, but as an analytical tool I think it is very limited, and science does not sit well with it.
  • fdrake
    1.7k
    I'm tempted to try to start a reading group for this paper discussing Rosen:

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03081079.2012.689466?needAccess=true

    Rosen's modelling relations constitute a conceptual schema for the understanding of the bidirectional process of correspondence between natural systems and formal symbolic systems. The notion of formal systems used in this study refers to information structures constructed as algebraic rings of observable attributes of natural systems, in which the notion of observable signifies a physical attribute that, in principle, can be measured. Due to the fact that modelling relations are bidirectional by construction, they admit a precise categorical formulation in terms of the category-theoretic syntactic language of adjoint functors, representing the inverse processes of information encoding/decoding via adjunctions. As an application, we construct a topological modelling schema of complex systems. The crucial distinguishing requirement between simple and complex systems in this schema is reflected with respect to their rings of observables by the property of global commutativity. The global information structure representing the behaviour of a complex system is modelled functorially in terms of its spectrum functor. An exact modelling relation is obtained by means of a complex encoding/decoding adjunction restricted to an equivalence between the category of complex information structures and the category of sheaves over a base category of partial or local information carriers equipped with an appropriate topology.

    Any takers? We'd get to learn some category theory!
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    I'm tempted to try to start a reading group for this paper discussing Rosen:fdrake

    Howard Pattee did this nice critique of how Rosen turned overly Platonic and mathematical in his last work...

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5891221_Laws_Constraints_and_the_Modeling_Relation_-_History_and_Interpretations

    Due to the fact that modelling relations are bidirectional by construction, they admit a precise categorical formulation in terms of the category-theoretic syntactic language of adjoint functors, representing the inverse processes of information encoding/decoding via adjunctions.

    The interesting question here might be whether it matters that the measurement process is itself informal - something quite apart from the formal model of causal entailment that is the law-expressing theory.

    So as a necessity of the modelling relation, the act of measurement (the encoding/decoding) is some kind of purpose-laden and pragmatic exercise in constraining the physics of the system in question so that it yields some number or value or sign. It is a fundamentally free action - a choice the modeller can make - in contrast to the modeller's representation of the world with a theory that is then utterly constrained, lawful, algorithmic and deterministic.

    So on the one hand, category theory might allow a representation of this relation - the way the modeller does pragmatically map algorithmic descriptions to a non-algorithmic reality. But then the connection between the map and the territory depends on this fundamentally informal and unconstrained business of measurement.

    In practice, habits of measurement are in fact constrained by the fact that they must work to achieve some goal or finality that the modelling relation represents. Measurement may have complete freedom, in contrast to the model's complete formality, yet the further thing of a purpose is used to prune the excessive degrees of freedom.

    However that is then an unmodelled real-world physical issue that an overly mathematical or formal approach to the story fundamentally fails to pick up. Any use of category theory couldn't actually deliver the kind of purely mathematical relational biology that was Rosen's ultimate goal.

    Again it is the usual central issue of ontology. We struggle to find a story that deals with the observers along with the observables.

    But as Pattee outlines, the modelling relation itself is very good for making it clear just where "laws" fit into things. They are the way we can see nature as if it were a mechanical reality implementing a formal system of causal entailment. And then the informal measurement side of the business - the encoding/decoding - is where the issue of the observer with a purpose can get buried safely as everything that really needs to be said about a pragmatic semiotic habit.

    The laws themselves are absolved of carrying the burden of telling the ontological truth. They become mere algorithms. The non-formalised part of the business is then our capacity not to feed garbage input into them, and also to recognise when the output might be obvious garbage.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    ...where the issue of the observer with a purpose can get buried safelyapokrisis

    Do you have to drive a stake through its heart first, just to be sure?
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    I was thinking about this too, and especially the curious idea - let me know if you agree - that even positive injunctions in the law are, in a way, simply double negatives.StreetlightX

    Constraints are apophatic in this fashion. Only that which could be predicted can also be forbidden. So possibilities could be ruled out as picked-out individual cases, yet nature can continue to be fundamentally surprising or probabilistic.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    There are no special constitutional Laws of Nature, or perhaps, the things we call Laws of Nature can only be so by analogy to constitutional law.Akanthinos

    The deepest physical laws look to capture mathematical symmetries. This is in fact a theorem - Noether's theorem.

    All the conservation laws that have allowed us to describe the Cosmos as a closed and coherent system - a Universe - derive directly from symmetry principles. Time translation symmetry gives conservation of energy. Space translation symmetry gives conservation of momentum. Rotation symmetry gives conservation of angular momentum.

    So this puts paid to the social constructionist angle that our laws of nature are some kind of pluralist bricolage.

    In the end, Nature seems to have had no choice about the fact that - if it is to exist - it must be shaped by these mathematical-strength "laws".

    Of course, the interesting thing is that the closure that is necessary for there to be a generalised state of Being is now likely to be emergent rather than fundamental. On the microscale, quantum mechanics shows that things aren't exactly closed and conserved – at least not in unambiguous fashion.

    So yeah, symmetry is the ideal limit state description. A story of effective laws. Yet still, as a finality, those symmetries are the inescapable destination of any evolution of a state of Being.

    The idea that the laws of nature are some kind of psychological convenience has to deal with the hard facts here.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    The deepest physical laws look to capture mathematical symmetries. This is in fact a theorem - Noether's theorem.apokrisis

    Noether's theorem can be rephrased with no mentions of laws : "If a system has a continuous symmetry property, then there are corresponding quantities whose values are conserved in time."
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